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Preserving Institutional Memory

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

It’s not news that many companies have experienced unprecedented staff turnover the past two years. For companies that depend on IBM systems, this poses a particularly big challenge because it’s not uncommon–even in large enterprises–for only a few IT professional to handle the entire IBM software-development and support infrastructure.

As a result, one or two layoffs, job transfers, resignations or retirements can mean a dramatic loss of knowledge, or institutional memory, and a decline in the organization’s ability to effectively use its application-development and business-intelligence (BI) software. It’s a hidden cost that further burdens struggling companies during difficult economic times. The challenge is greatest when it comes unexpectedly.

Application-development and BI tools often serve an organization invisibly and are known in depth to only a few staff members. Any application-development or BI software vendor that’s been in business for more than a few years can point to customers who at one time used their software effectively with considerable benefit, only to later lose virtually all knowledge of what the tools were licensed to do or what value they might still offer. Lacking this knowledge or the skills to use the tools, longtime business users tend to drift back to old methods requiring extra steps, resulting in lost productivity. In companies where a new manager or director is hired, he or she may be unaware of the tools available to staff or assume the staff is using all available tools correctly. As a result, the company may acquire new software, at significant expense, to gain capabilities a trained user would have known were already available. This is especially true today as BI tools have grown beyond query and reporting to provide Web interface, portal and dashboard-development features previously thought of as requiring custom programming. Significant questions go unasked:

  • What do we have licensed?
  • What’s installed on which systems and PCs?
  • Who’s using the software and for what purpose?
  • Are we on the latest release?
  • Do we know how to leverage the latest enhancements?
  • Does the software provider offer other solutions integrated with our current tools that would let us quickly adapt to changing requirements?
The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.
–George Bernard Shaw

Bill Langston is director of marketing for New Generation Software Inc., and a developer of iSeries BI software. He can be reached at



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